Sunday, 22 August 2010

Sat 21 Aug 2010 trip to London & Chatham

05:45 train from Cambridge then 07:17 train from London Bridge to Chatham at 08:24.

This was my first trip to the north Kent coast so looked out of the train window the whole way. The view from the train was mainly of chalk cuttings, tunnels and trees. To the south there's farmland but to the north lots of industrial sites. There was a brief glimpse of the M25 bridge (with slowly-moving traffic).

In retrospect I should have Googled for bus info but I had it in mind to see the area on foot, having 90 mins before the Historic Dockyard opened.

Just beyond the station are some old shopping streets, now part-pedestrianised. Beyond that the road leads past the entrance to Fort Amherst and then there's a long way to go with not a lot of interest to see until the entrance to the Historic Dockyard area, which has been the focus of a lot of renewal and investment.

Chatham Historic Dockyard has lots going on. While I was waiting a steamroller was being readied just ouside a working boatyard. There are several steam-powered boats moored. The dockyard railway engines are being maintained and there's an assortment of rolling stock.

The £18.50 ticket (including guide book) is valid for a year. I started with the much-acclaimed Stanley Spencer exhibition - his paintings of Clyde shipbuilding. The adjacent galleries of naval models and paintings are also impressive.

The guided tour of the Ropery was a hoot: set in 1875, the foreman "Mr. Steve to you" tells you all about life in the Ropery and some rope gets made by the group.

I went round the museum of the dockyard - lots of fascinating details. The quay outside is where the docks scene in "The Mummy" was filmed.

I didn't have time to see/do these:

  • HMS Ocelot submarine tour
  • trip on Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle
  • Fort Amherst Heritage Park and Caverns
  • Old Brook Pumping Station
I caught a Kings Ferry bus back to the station and a train back to Charing Cross. I was keen to get to the Jermyn Street Theatre for a ticket for the short run of 'If So Then Yes' - a rare new play by NF Simpson. I also got one for the much-talked-about 'Ghost Stories'.

This was may last chance to catch the National Galley 'Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries' exhibition: it was packed but as interesting and enlightening as I thought it would be. I also went across the road into St Martins for the new 4th Plinth candidates exhibition; Once again the standout candidate, the ATM-and-organ, seems unlikely to succeed (like Tracey's Meerkats last time).

The 17:28 back from Liverpool Street was cancelled without explanation, so I had a tedious 50min wait, a sour note to a fine day. Then the Arsenal fans who boarded the service were well-behaved family groups - could have been much worse.

For future reference:
From Chatham Station turn right and right aging for the bus stops. Kings Ferry Dockside shuttle (80p single) and Arriva 140 are the main services between the station and the Historic Dockyard site.

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